The drive was powered by frustration, which turned into an Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship for ‘Iolani on Saturday.
The Raiders got a 2-3-4 finish from freshmen Devin Pang (10 minutes, 42 seconds) and Keane Palmer (10:47), and senior Joshua Lerner (10:48) at a hilly, wet and sunny course at Mid-Pacific Institute. The Raiders finished with 34 points to get past defending state champion Punahou (44).
Seniors Andrew Rosen, Michael Shiinoki, Kainoa Tandy and Ashten Akemoto powered the Raiders’ ultra seven. Rosen (11:21) placed 11th, Shiinoki (11:31) placed 14th, Tandy (11:49) was 19th and Akemoto (12:04) was 24th.
“It means a lot for us, especially because Punahou was the state champion, returning most of their team,” said ‘Iolani Coach Jack Kuo, now in his 10th year. “I give all the kids the credit. We had two fast young kids, but it was a senior-driven team. It was held down by them. We had a disappointing season in 2019, and these guys came back and used it as fuel for this whole COVID year-and-a-half. When you go on such an extended break with a sour taste in your mouth, you remember that.”
Lerner was the glue man.
“Our senior led the two freshmen as a stable presence. That allowed that pack to run as well as they did,” Kuo noted. “They improved their times by 30, 40 seconds on that course.”
William Ho won the boys individual race with a time of 10:39. The Kamehameha senior hadn’t run at MPI since junior season, and this route — reworked because of soggy terrain — was a mind bender at times.
“It’s a lot different. They changed it because of the rain puddles and stuff. Actually, it definitely felt harder because it felt like something added on,” Ho said. “You’re starting uphill. It’s comparable to our (Kamehameha) course, except you had to run the hill twice.”
The format had to fit protocols, so both the boys and girls meets throughout the ILH season were completely modified. Each team as a group and left the premises. There was no mingling during or after races, so it became a mental game.
Ho was a consistent winner this season, which made him the favorite entering Saturday’s showdown. After Ho, Pang, Palmer and Lerner, Hawaii Baptist junior Connor Malinger was fifth (10:48) while Punahou’s Cooper Baines (10:51.64), Caden Lombard (10:51.92), Jordan Furuta (11:19) and Thomas Yamada (11:21) placed sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th, respectively.
MPI junior Parker Wagnild placed eighth (11:08). The host Owls were the last team to take the course at 5:20 p.m., precisely when cloud cover and a bit more drizzling finally enveloped the campus.
2021 ILH Cross Country Championships
1 ‘Iolani 34, 2. Punahou 44, 3. Kamehameha 95, 4. HBA 120, 5. Mid-Pacific 122, 6. Maryknoll 148, 7. Damien 180.
Individual (Top 20)
1. William Ho, Kamehameha, 10:39
2. Devin Pang, ‘Iolani, 10:42
3. Keane Palmer, ‘Iolani, 10:47
4. Joshua Lerner, ‘Iolani, 10:48.11
5. Connor Malinger, HBA, 10:48.64
6. Cooper Baines, Punahou, 10:51.58
7. Caden Lombard, Punahou, 10:51.92
8. Parker Wagnild, Mid-Pacific, 11:08
9. Jordan Furuta, Punahou, 11:19
10. Thomas Yamada, Punahou, 11:21.16
11. Andrew Rosen, ‘Iolani, 11:21.24
12. Noah Tonai, Punahou, 11:23
13. Alexander Gardner, Damien, 11:28
14. Michael Shiinoki, ‘Iolani, 11:31
15. Joshua Dutton, Punahou, 11:35
16. Christian Kuwaye, HBA, 11:38
17. Gabriel Theriault, Mid-Pacific, 11:42
18. Benjamin Brown, Punahou, 11:43
19. Kainoa Tandy, ‘Iolani, 11:49
20. Austin Chun, Maryknoll, 11:52